Misadventures with Miso

Misadventures with Miso

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Last of the Faux Museum

 The news that the Faux Museum is closing in a couple weeks made me look back at my visit there last year. It was an unplanned visit. I think I was in the area for pizza and taking photos of Chinatown.

 I had read about the museum so decided why not check out the place where irrelevance is relevant. The exhibits that day were an homage to school fairs. The school being the Faux University Alternative School.

 Of course there was an awards case

 Science project displays

 And games visitors could play.

How Will You Die participants threw ping pong balls at the board and then checked the list for the corresponding number. I think mine was being electrocuted in an electric car. So far I've avoided this fate.

 Sociological entries like The Hipster Closet

 And of course the Wooly Ant participated.

 The fun part of the exhibit was how interactive it was.

 And rather inventive. Instead of a haunted house there was Our Haunted World.

 Which was a display of real world news articles.

 Of course there was art such as this which was part of the Read Moby Dick booth.

 Which not only had the book to read but a notebook for people to leave their thoughts in.

 I'm not even going to try to explain this.

 I do remember this keyboard which played famous singers screams and yells when you pressed the keys.

Finally there was an exhibit of artwork including these portraits of television detectives including the late great James Garner.

With the rainy weather right now the Faux Museum is a good place to get out of the rain and have a little fun. It's even mentioned in Atlas Obscura here.

However if you want to visit don't put it off since they will be closed for good around the middle of January. Probably the best place to find opening times is at the Faux Museum's Facebook site.

Thanks Faux Museum for being creative and out there.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Time to Get Your Sparkle on Nodoguro Style

 It's December which means a new theme at Nodoguro. This time it's "glitter". With cute glittery displays like this one made of artistic candy.

A sweet painting of candy mountains by Alexander Kornienko.

With glittery mountains below. Being winter it's glittery snow.

 Even a bit of glitter on the menus. The glitter theme also was for good luck so the dishes were Ryan Roadhouse's take on classical Japanese New Year's osechi-ryori cuisine. Fine dining osechi-ryori that is.

First up was tender Slow Poached Octopus with Sunchokes in soy and ginger. Which I ate and then remembered I wanted to take a photo of it. I guess I was just a little hungry and it was gone before I knew it. The octopus was tender and the sunchokes were a nice compliment to it.

 Second course was one of my favorites. Lovely shiny Sea Bream or Tai Sashimi. It was cured in kelp and seasoned with citrus and bits of pickled persimmon. The curls of leek on top were a very pretty addition and a bit of contrast. Tai is a favorite New Year's dish in Japan where it is usually grilled as part of the meal. However this sashimi was so good it would be a shame to grill it.

 I was looking forward to the Chawanmushi with Sea Urchin and Dashi and I was not disappointed. This was made with more liquid to egg than usual but still had a lovely custard set and was topped with a layer of seasoned dashi surrounding the uni and nori on top. Really nice combination of flavors.

 Next was the Vinegared Vegetable or Sunomono course. We were treated to crab with pickled lotus root, carrots from Phantom Rabbit Farm and wakame dressed in persimmon vinegar. I'm guessing the crab was Dungeness because it's the season for it and it was delicious. This was my favorite sunomono dish of the ones I have tried at Nodoguro. The persimmon vinegar had a bit of a bite but the sweet crab was a match for it yet did not compete at all. It's hard to describe but it was like each bite of crab cancelled out some of the vinegar flavor. Really lovely and something I will remember when making sunomono in the future.

Both carrot and lotus root are traditional osechi ingredients with the colors representing a happy celebration plus the lotus root holes are about looking towards a hopeful future.

 It's always fun to hear diners rave about the black cod dishes. I think it happens because as we are waiting the nice aroma of the fish cooking fills the air making us all anticipate what we will be eating. For Glitter Chef Ryan first salt cured and then smoked the fish with elder chips. The smokey flavor really came through and the chestnut miso went well with it. Chestnuts are another lucky food eaten at New Years because the gold color of chestnuts was like the color of Japanese money in the past.

 Another dish diners were looking forward to was the Hot Mochi with Chrysanthemum Greens. O-zoni is very popular in Japan although one needs to eat the sticky mochi carefully and with small bites as we were informed by Elena Roadhouse. I've made O-zoni with shiro miso soup but for this Chef Ryan used a nice yet strong dashi which worked well with the herbal leaves and the slightly crisped mochi. Bits of yuzu and leeks on top made this dish even more enjoyable.

I missed taking photos of the Soy Cured Salmon Roe on Sasanishiki Rice. I wish I had because the rice grains were so tiny! The dish was topped with dried yuzu and Japanese parsley stems. I think the secret to this dish is that by curing the roe in soy it actually mellows the taste of the roe. Plus I am sure this was very fresh roe. Ryan's ikuradon is not only popular with diners but also with the people who work there.

Following this was a serving of Sweet Omelet Tamagoyaki. No photos since I have taken photos of it before in my other Nodoguro posts. This was just as delicious. I asked Chef Ryan if he could teach us how he makes it and he said it would be messy, very messy. He did say he makes many layers, probably more than most sushi chefs do. It really does make a difference. Tamagoyaki is another popular New Year's dish because of it's golden color which represents the color of gold.

 The dessert for Glitter was Cheesecake. But not just any cheesecake. This lovely dish was topped with red azuki bean sauce, toasted hazel nuts and kinako which is toasted soy bean powder. Azuki bean soup is traditional and a favorite for New Years and winter in Japan. So using azuki beans as a sweet topping for the cheesecake worked well and fit right in with the meal. Kinako has a lovely flavor and with the hazel nuts one doesn't miss a traditional crust at all. I think I heard the cheese used was goat cheese which for me is always a plus. I could see this dessert being served at fine restaurants in Japan and the diners loving it.

We finished with a cup of roasted brown rice tea and omanju. This time we were treated to Tomoe's green tea brownie with nuts and coconut. I loved how moist this was. I also think the blueberry plates are very cute and if they ever decide to replace them...

This was a lovely dinner and there are still a few open seats for this week at Nodoguro's reservation page. It was a little more traditional yet still extremely delicious and fine. This is top notch Japanese cuisine.

Nodoguro's website is here where you can make reservations and also purchase gift cards now! They are located at 3735 SE Hawthorne Blvd, East Portland, Oregon but reservations must be made ahead of time. Also each month there are a couple nights of "Hardcore Sushi Omakase" which sell out super fast. If you want to try that it's best to follow Nodoguro on Twitter here for when they announce the reservations are posted.

Next up, something completely different.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Going back to 1910

When I say I have a lot of places I have been to, I'm not kidding. So I am going to try to post some of those places. One of those places I visited about a year ago. 1910 Main in Forest Grove, Oregon.

 1910 Main is an interesting place. I give them a lot of credit in being an upscale restaurant in a place which was mostly a farming community along with education. The decor was an interesting mix of older memorabilia including farm equipment along with more modern banquette seating.

 Along with art glass lamps hanging from the ceiling.

 We started with fresh bread and wine, most likely a Pinot Noir.

This meal we went with an appetizer of hummas and flat bread. I know my hummas and this was pretty good. It was nice to have the little tomatoes, cheese and olives since most places do not add anything with hummas. This actually is a little more authentic. I remember the bread being very fresh. Sadly it doesn't seem they offer this any more.

 My dining companion ordered a steak with grilled onions and mushrooms. It came with carrots and mashed potatoes. I remember he thought the dish was well done and he enjoyed it.

 For me it was the wild salmon which also came with carrots and a side of grains. The fish was cooked nicely and the carrots were a nice change since they were obviously fresh and probably local. I do remember that it was a lot of food. These were really big plates. Personally I would have preferred a little less.

 1910 Main advertises that it offers classic comfort food. They do achieve that with offering a little more upscale dining in an area where there isn't much available. After eating at a number of places from Forest Grove to Beaverton that there has been a trend of basic food in large servings so 1910 Main does put a nicer touch to that. For me it was still a bit basic and more food than I like to eat. I'd prefer a little more originality and less food for a little less money. But I think for many families and people this is the kind of place where one can dine and feel good. It's the kind of place I think people would take their out of town relatives to for a nice meal.

1910 Main is located at 1910 Main Street in Forest Grove, Oregon.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Yuzu Ramen aka Umami Heaven

Did I ever mention I have a thing for ramen? Not sure? Well check my links. While I don't overdo the rameness, I do get a hankering for a bowl now and again. I've been lucky to have sampled a few really great bowls of noodle soup in Southern California and from visiting ramen masters from Japan. However moving to Oregon I didn't see much listed in the way of ramen. So I set out to try a few in the last couple of years. Thankfully one place is not far from me. When I first went there it was in January of 2013 and had the air of a Japanese izakaya.

An izakaya is a Japanese restaurant which is basically a bar with different types of food for people to share while drinking. Often salty to keep up the thirst of the customers. One is often given free salted edamame as a starter. True to being an izakaya, Yuzu served up edamame with my draft Asahi beer.

As much as I wanted to try all the other items Yuzu offered, I was there for their ramen. A little toasted sesame seed and garlic was offered to add if I wanted it.

To add to my kakuni ramen. Thin egg noodles in a tonkotsu broth and I knew I did not need to look any further for ramen. Although I have tried a few in Oregon I knew I would be back to Yuzu. Besides they have so many other things to try.

 However at that time it wasn't easy getting a seat. Open in the evenings with not a lot of tables for this really popular restaurant one needed to make a reservation or risk getting told sorry no room. So later that year with a visitor experienced with ramen I did just that.

Once again it was the kakune. It's just that good.

 So the other day I was wishing I could have a bowl of Yuzu's ramen. I had to stop at a place right by there and noticed their open sign was lit. In the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday. I thought "maybe they left the sign lit by accident?"

 But it wasn't an accident. Yuzu has changed just a bit. New menus, new hours including being open for lunch and gone are the wooden menu boards on the wall. Replaced with posters and signs advertising Mio's Desserts. With Stump Town Ice Brewed Coffee it seems a little Portland has seeped into this wonderful low key izakaya in Beaverton.

 Back at the counter however I had to give in to my craving.

 For their kakuni ramen. Which was still umami heaven. Rarely have I had a dish that made me forget everything and just enjoy the sensations of eating.

 However now with the new hours I think there will be less of a problem of being able to try some of the other dishes on the menu. I see a bowl of miso ramen in my near future at least.

Yuzu is at 4130 SW 117th Ave, Beaverton, OR 97005 and is now open for a couple hours at lunch on weekdays, Saturday afternoons and weekday evenings. I write all this because they do not post their hours on their door nor do they have a sign on the street. I would suggest still making a reservation in the evening just in case.

In case I didn't mention it. I love Yuzu. I think it points out the fact that focusing on the food rather than hype will pay off. Although I am glad they updated a little bit and very glad they are open for lunch now. The one improvement they could do is open another location so that this one is a little less packed and I can get a seat whenever I crave their ramen.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Compass Points to China, Time for Departure

Decided since I have not eaten Chinese food in a long time I would throw my luck in with the November Chef Gregory Gourdet Compass Dinner.

Greeted by chop sticks in fabric we sat down to a family style dinner.

Three special cocktails were offered and since I have enjoyed all the ones previously I picked the Doong Tien which was Bacardi 8, persimmon shrub, lemon and angostura. Sweet yet very nice. Turns out Doong Tien means winter in Chinese.

First up were shrimp chips. Surprised I was able to get a photo of them since they flew into diners' mouths. I think I was able to get two for myself.

Next was Eggplant in chili garlic marinade. Another one I had a hard time getting a photo of because the guys where I sat loved this dish. I did try a little bit and the eggplant was nicely done with a really good texture.

Something I enjoyed was the Turnip Cake with mushrooms and scallions. Crispy on the outside, dense yet soft inside with a little zip from bits of red pepper coating the outside.

The Winter Melon Soup with scallop, chinese celery and goji berries was a nice break from the spicier dishes. Another winner with the diners which showcased how Chef Gourdet thinks things out. One diner thought the soup needed salt but then he had a bit of scallop in the next spoonful and realized it was just right. The goji berries added a fun bit of sweet and were a nice addition to this type of soup.

One of my favorite dishes was the Crispy Shrimp Dumplings with dipping sauce. They were just right.

However my absolute favorite dish of the night was the Pork belly in rice noodle rolls. I don't know if the reason for the rolls was because Aaron kept trying to make noodle rolls on Top Chef. Doesn't matter because these were excellent. The pork inside was amazing with flavor that would not quit. Seasonings included fermented bean paste and a lot more that I could not remember. I would order these again if I ever see them on the menu.

I really wanted to try the Smoked Ham Hock Congee because I have never had congee plus there was the Top Chef competition between Chef Gourdet and Chef Mei Lin. I don't know how hers taste but this one was good. With so many dishes on the menu I didn't finish this but another time I would eat more. I thought the little crisps on top were a nice touch.

Time for the poultry! Crispy Five Spice Chicken which was delicious! Tender and juicy with a little bowl of spices to dip in or sprinkle. I wish we would have know at this point we could take home left overs because I would have made them leave this on the table. No fowl this time. Makes me wish I had someone here to share a Departure Peking Duck in December with.

One of the things I like about cuisine from China is the number of vegetable dishes that are available. In part I would guess the reason is Buddhist teachings which forbid the eating of meat. These were very fresh Long Beans with preserved radish, chili and jicama. Spicy which the guys at the table loved. Besides the chili there was garlic and ginger and a hint of anise or another similar spice. The standout of this dish was the jicama which held it's own against all that chili. I definitely would consider using it when cooking besides salads. It was still crisp but gained a little tenderness without the fibrous quality it sometimes has when eaten raw.

At this point I think we were hitting overload with the food but each dish was so delicious we all tried a bit. Steamed Cod with ginger and scallions was good but even better the next day when it has soaked up a bit of that soy marinade.

Nice that Vegetable Fried Rice made it to the table. Bits of salted duck egg and mixed with xo sauce it proved that fried rice could be made even better. Now I'm going to have to try using difference sauces when making fried rice. I could say this was an inspiring dish!

Finally we reached dessert and an interesting dessert this was. Left were Sesame Balls with date and orange and a spicy sauce. Middle was Taro Root Ice Cream with goose berry and sesame brittle which I liked and appreciated since I didn't have to deal with lactose intolerance afterwards. It's one of the reasons I like trying dinners like this. The experience of having something familiar but made differently.

The dessert on the right was a delicious Egg Custard Tart with caramelized banana and peanuts on top. This seemed to be the favorite with everyone.

So there is one more Compass Dinner to happen this year and that is Haiti this month. Although don't be surprised if there are more to come. It looks like this is a very popular concept and Chef Gourdet is enjoying creating these meals. To find out when Haiti is happening try following Departure PDX on Twitter or Departure Restaurant on Facebook. They have other meals in the future and also their Peking Duck dinners for December which need to be reserved in advance.

Departure Restaurant is located at 525 SW Morrison St, Portland, OR 97204

Some day I will have to go and try dishes from the menu. Just really enjoy the Compass Dinners. Thank you Chef Gourdet and hoping you did well on Top Chef.